Eyes on the Prize
Invest in your future. Slow and steady wins the race. Keep your eyes on the prize.
These are the kind of sayings that come to mind when you talk with Errol Greene, one of the NYC DADS Matter Award Honorees from last year. Greene is an even tempered guy, who made a lot of the right decisions early in fatherhood, which have paid off now. He lives in a nice, big house, with a nice pool and he has a couple of good kids who are in college. And he has himself to thank for it.
“The time you put in will benefit you later, it will give you less to deal with later in life,” Greene says. “It’s all already paying off. I have given my all. And my kids are great kids now.”
Greene made a point to spend time with his children, twins who benefitted from his love and guidance early on. He also invested in what’s called a 529, a tax-free way of investing in his kids’ future education. “I can’t talk it up any more and I can’t imagine all of this without it,” says Greene, who started saving money when his twins were 2-years-old. The steady investment and the increases over 16 years really added up. “If I had not done that, they might not be in college. Now I can pay the check.”
Sometimes, if Greene sees a parent pushing a stroller, he’ll impart advice: “Save that money,” he’ll say. “You may not have it all. But at least you’ll have part of it.”
Of course, financial security is not the only thing that a father needs to provide. “The hardest thing is sitting down and maintaining an open line of communication,” Greene says. “You have to be able to talk with them and they have to understand you. And they need to know that they can trust you and that they can come to you.”
Greene says he tries speaking with his kids about their career paths, but he gets some resistance. “I tell my son, ‘You’re on this path and you are going through life. And I am 36 years ahead of you on that road. So if I say take a right, I know. But they want to do it their own way.”
That may frustrate him at times, but Greene understands. In fact, he really understands, because he can recall when his own dad told him to go into politics, but he didn’t heed his father’s advice, instead settling on a business career, which led him to become the wine and spirits consultant that he is today. “I look back now, and I think he was right,” Greene says. And so he is sympathetic to his kids’ position, which is why he also pushes them to “follow their passion.”
Now, as fulfilling as fatherhood has been for Errol, he’s happy to reap the rewards of having done a good job. That includes not having them around so much anymore.
“I am enjoying having my kids at college so much,” he says. “When they are here, they leave dishes in the sink. I have to tell them, ‘Take the garbage out, wash the tub. Don’t put your video games on the TV.’”
Instead, he looks forward to visiting them at college. And, yes, he knows that a lot of kids come back to stay home after school. “I am trying to physically and mentally prepare myself for that,” he says with a laugh. “It’s never ending.”